Yesterday Chief Hearing Examiner Ashley Schannauer presented his recommendation to reject the proposed PNM Avangrid merger during the weekly PRC meeting. Scheduled for discussion only, the 7.5 hour meeting ended on a high note, with three of the five commissioners (Chair Stephen Fischmann, Cynthia Hall, and Teresa Becenti-Aguilar) speaking out strongly against the merger, and Commissioner Joseph Maestas declaring that a "black cloud" hangs over the merger due to the ongoing criminal investigation of Iberdrola leadership, the violations at their utilities in the Northeast, and the structural issues that could lead to conflicts of interest between Iberdrola/Avangrid and New Mexicans.
We applaud the Hearing Examiner for his thorough and principled application of the law, and the Commissioners for taking a courageous public stance to protect the interests of the people. As Chairman Fischmann reiterated, the benefits touted by company executives amount to no more than "fool's gold," while the fundamental structure of Avangrid/Iberdrola raises serious questions about the potential for anti-competitive dealings between a public utility and multiple affiliates owned by the same company that could lead to higher rates and obstruction of renewable energy expansion in the state.
The Commissioners also criticized the questionable culture at the parent company and its track record of failure to provide the basic functions of a utility - reliable service at just and reasonable rates.
For those who have a half hour to spare, we highly recommend hearing the scathing comments of the Commissioners in their own words:
As Joe Monahan wrote today in his blog:
Because of the personal antics of various commissioners it was once the most infamous clown car in the state but today a majority of the five member Public Regulation Commission is showing real moxie. Three of them continue to oppose the controversial $4.3 billion merger between PNM and foreign-controlled Avangrid. That opposition is in the face of a $1 million plus advertising blitz [and] the complete capitulation of the state's political class[.]
Public protection is an awesome responsibility. The Hearing Examiner and PRC Commissioners have decided to throw their lot in with the people rather than corporate shareholders. Their analysis means, in actuality, that responsible government serves all New Mexicans. Public policy requires honest, transparent, innovative, rigorous, and bold climate solutions, aligned with economic justice. New Energy Economy applauds the integrity and courage of the Commission.
The Commission decided to hear Joint Applicants exceptions and our response next week, and may take a final vote as early as December 8th.